After a tough 120 minutes and penalty shoot-out, Konyaspor beat Başakşehirspor and won the Turkish Cup last Wednesday. Both teams were unable to score a goal throughout the 90 minutes and extra time was no different in terms of attacking productivity. Both teams are known to be characteristically defensive and reactionary, Başakşehir had the best defensive record in the Super league with 28 conceded goals while Konyaspor conceded only 43 goals, just four goals more than fourth-placed Galatasaray. But I expected a high quality attacking performance too. Nevertheless, both teams opted for conventional man-marking and narrowing the space. Thus, a dull, boring performance came into existence, an unfortunately usual occurence for Turkish fans.
However, the reason why I am not overlooking this dullness is that I know both coaches, Konyaspor's Aykut Kocaman and Başakşehirspor's Abdullah Avcı are capable of doing much better than this. They proved their defensive quality by achieving great success with these little-known teams. Başakşehir almost became champions this year and made it to the cup final and Konyaspor won the cup, and now it is time to show the snobbish oligarchy of the big-spending but little-achieving elites of Turkish football that this game can be played successfully and entertainingly without spending millions.
First of all, as Jurgen Klopp once said, it is impossible to teach a low quality team how to defend and attack at the same time, because both disciplines require too much time to learn. Thus, it was a brilliant idea by both coaches to settle collective defending first, and create a resilient team that can battle every physical challenge in Turkey. When I interviewed Abdullah Avcı last year he also emphasized the same point as Klopp, and said that for six months they only worked on team defense, without considering any attacking set-pieces. This not only crippled almost every attacking philosophy in Turkey, it also boosted the team's self-confidence.
Now, it is time to implement the same strategy for attack, and see the limits of the creativity of both coaches. Aykut Kocaman tried the same process at Fenerbahçe back in 2013 but given the impatience of the club and the pressure from the administration, he had to leave the club before finishing his project. At the same time Abdullah Avcı was struggling with the same problems in the national team, and eventually shared the same fate as Kocaman. On the other hand, today they have lots of credit and much less pressure.
The crucial point is, the nature of attacking strategies requires taking risks and trusting the set-pieces developed by the coaches. While defending is pretty much clear of any risks, attacking cannot be efficient with the same low-risk philosophy. Nonetheless, the consequence of this approach was evident in the cup final, neither team managed to create opportunities because both were experts at preventing the opponent from creating opportunities. The secret of the Turkish league championship is finding the balance between offensive risk taking and defensive discipline. Right now Konyaspor and Başakşehir can maintain their status with their current strategies, but in order to take their game to the next level, they have to confront their worst defensive worries and seize the attacking initiative.
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